Monday, November 1, 2010

One Of Those Days

Have you ever had one of those days when you feel like there is something happening and you can’t put your finger on it? It can be so exasperating to sense the changes coming, the opening of new doors or the closing of others. I have never been comfortable with those moments. I wrestle with the unknown lots of times. People around me will often say; “Wow, you handle the spontaneity of life well.” While it is true that I try to be spontaneous, there are moments when I would much rather rest in the known and feel the comfort of that spot for a while.

I remember the first time I walked toward that vast expanse of fear. My Mom was getting ready to leave us for a year to be taken to Kentville for treatments for TB. As a small child I could only see the reality of the loss, the emptiness and the change that was coming... I felt empty. I never forgot that feeling... it haunted me for a long time. I have questioned down through the years my sense of understanding of what was happening... there was no way I could see what the days ahead could hold, but I did come to realize that not everyone felt the same way that I did. Little was said about the loss because we were expected to accept what was happening and as a small child, this was unreasonable... my life was being stolen from me.

These days are reflective for me. I am not certain that I react the same way I did back then, but maybe I do in most instances and don’t want to admit it. Are there times when I see only the losses in life and can’t focus on what God has added to not only address the upcoming needs, but to strengthen my soul for the longer course which I am to take? That course or pathway, has since childhood, lead me through some fearful events, yet also to some wonderful people and places.

Life and love have afforded the growth that I have needed to survive. That may sound dramatic, but when we consider what life sometimes brings, we know that the seasons of life are not always gracious. I would rather know that what I have done will mean something, rather than have moments when doubt and fear are a forecast of things to come. It is odd that we take that stance in life. We want the best but often look for the worst. I want to spend my life gleaning the good not paying for the bad. Ha! We are afforded the moments and given opportunity to make the best of them, no matter the perspective we choose to see.

At the moment those feelings arise, I choose these days to let go of searching the future. It has been hard to learn to do that. I still lapse from time to time, but more often I actually let go and seek what God’s will needs to be. That has been an exercise of faith for me. I follow the model of Christ and feel that there I can’t go wrong, even when everything around me is. I am not too much of a follower these days. I want to lead... not the world, but one person at a time. Sometimes that person is me, sometimes it is another, sometimes it is many. In life leading is because we follow and as curious a concept as that can be, it has its depth of meaning and truth. Let me life near the edge Lord, but don’t let me lose my footing. This is where life has the most meaning... closer to You.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Still Near the Edge

I am never sure how to approach a new addition. You might think that I am just bursting at the seams with new thoughts and it would be simple to just sit down and let it out. Over the past few months since returning form India again, my life has had a sharp turn... a great transition. I will never be able to speak openly about all that has happened, but I will say this... God has more to do with life than anyone would dare to suspect, much less know.

In the past I have always felt the nearness of my faith... that sense that no matter my lot in life, I was never alone. There always seems to be that touch of reality, the knowledge that things can and will happen to bring us back to level ground. We can climb mountains, but the valley is only one slip away, one bit of life’s twist away and I knew it all the time. Perhaps it is the presence of human fear. Maybe it is the desire to be in touch with the ultimate design that life will end, in one context or another and we should always be prepared. But my faith went deep inside my soul. I clung to more than a human message of what must be, to that which I know could be.. that there is something more beyond who we are as humans, to that which we are, as created. I have alway felt there was something more and would not just settle for less.

My trip to India this year was a life changing time. Was it just because it was different? No, I don’t think so. It perhaps was more on the side of the less obvious. There were moments that I thought that I might not actually go this year. Moments that I felt that I may not be allowed to go and that in the end my joy in service there may be challenged. But, God had other plans and I was released and supported in so many great ways, that I soon found that His call on my life was more than real... it was planned. I spent the next weeks travelling, watching, praying and teaching. I spent time with my friend in India talking about what could happen and trying to encourage him in the work he is undertaking for Christ. I saw the needs of the people in the rural settings of India and my heart still cries for their plight.

It is hard to come home and leave behind such a ministry. But, God has some greater plans that take us where we are needed, one moment at a time.. In this lifetime it may change from day to day. I wonder at the obvious most days. I consider myself to be spontaneous, but there are moments that I realize that this is all beyond me.. It is in God’s realm, it is in His control, there He reigns and we just maintain our faith and faithfulness. I am more convinced every day that I have to be ready. Readiness is not something that is an exact ideal. I think I am prepared and viola, there is a change of plan or pattern. I may feel so confident that I am ready only to find out that the rules have changed., the parameters are different and so the game will be played in another court on another day. I imagine the worst some days and God makes it the best. Can you get your head around those situations... no not always. We learn to cope, but is coping enough.

I felt so long that I will just accept. Accepting is good right? We learn to pray part of the Serenity Prayer most often quoted: God, grant me the serenity To accept the things I cannot change; the Courage to change the things I can; And the wisdom to know the difference. I have come to learn that just accepting is not enough. There is a cumulative effect in our lives that causes us to hold inside those things that are truly disastrous to our well-being. Somehow we have to learn to let go of them and empty our lives, our senses, those frets, worries and cares that bog us down and give them over to God. Yes, I know... easy to say when you spend your life as a Pastor! Well, I can tell you it is never easy. I have met many people, Pastors included, who have never done that or even thought of doing that in their lives. We tend to carry the “stuff” of this world with us for our safety and its security. It is hard to let go of some things that we tend to guard, lest it fall into the enemies hands... but who is that enemy?
In my travel through life I have been a searcher. I know that I will always be a searcher. To some extent it is for truth, to another it is to see what and where I can assist. To some it is a God-send, to others it has become a pain in the neck or worse. It leads me to places where trouble exists and answers are not easily found. I watch and learn from what I see, I pray for guidance to make the right choices and I do not always succeed. This I therefore find.. I am not the answer.. I am a searcher who waits for God to move sometimes through me, but more often in the hearts of those I serve, so that work can now begin.. I teach the willing, not the unwilling. God has a way of bringing people to their knees and I wait for what can and should be done and that is not an easy task, because not everyone is receptive to God. The waiting can be hard due to hardness of heart and the pain of loving people, who hurt, is excruciating. I am not called to run away, but to those who need God’s help. Therefore in this life, facing the pain becomes a drive which is like a drug.

That is scary. Do we cross the line and take too much? Yes, by times and the costs to health and relationships can be seen and felt. But to those serving God it is a way of life. I pray for those who read this today. Do not consider life as a mere trip, but a journey. There is a vast difference between the two. A trip may be a vacation, a journey is somewhat of an experience which may lead to change and most often does. I have not changed so drastically that I do not see reality. I have taken on a deeper faith, a new resolve and a new outlook on how things happen in life though. I do not expect that I will ever be the same and do not desire to go back. I am still living near the edge... the view from here is spectacular and I await God’s voice and movement to open the doors of His will daily. May God bless you all.. He is at work always.. You may never see it, but He is here!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Control ... A Big Issue In Life

It has been years since I have really felt out of control. That sounds so strange as I look at my life and see it actually written on the page. For years I have struggled against the passions which have led me to sometimes making wrong decisions. I have viewed life from most sides and concluded that what I really needed was that solidarity in my life, that brought the most peace. I have concluded that the more I seek my own solace in life, the more out of control life became.

How can there be a lack of control when the very essence of life in ministry holds that supposed calm that is expected by those under our care? Well, it is a long hard journey to that place where the skin remains supple, while able to withstand the worst that life in the human journey can offer. I have felt many times in ministry the tug of depression on the very pit of my heart. I have known the awfulness of looking into the abyss and not knowing what the future will hold for me and my dear wife, as the challenges of expectation, personal disappoint or even attack became more than real. Why that happens is simple. I, like those in this calling known as Pastoral Ministry, (and many others too... I know) have to face daily the problems, hurts, angers, misconceptions, questions and rage of a human life that can explode, cry, collapse in illness or death, become lost in either the complexity of the system or in the identity of their human existence, at any given time, as they face their own realities of life.

The question often arrises for me... what do I do next. The context of the problem first has to be separated from my personal views. I evaluate the reasons for what is taking place, where the basic needs before me are best served and then ask myself if I am being totally objective about what I am seeing and finding. There is a difference always. Objectivity creates for me a different view of what is not only happening, but what can or should happen. Too many times in my life I have stood on the edge of life’s situations and only felt the subjective stress, which I could easily have turned into that angry person that once lived in me and controlled almost every decision I made, until I was over my teenage years... even since then I have struggled lots of times to not lapse back to the old life.

Am I staring back into the abyss again? Do I not acknowledging daily that I need to release myself again to my Faith and not to my emotions. Certainly I am... I am facing the demons that dwell in the innermost part of the human life... a desire to fight back, to get even, to stop the constant charge of those who would challenge me, undermine my control and cloud the true issues of what need to be done, by their negative take on most things. I enjoy ministry until those around me are constantly on the prowl for something to complain about, something to dismantle or even discard for new and more liberal views of life, beyond where my faith lies.

The feelings I am examining today in my life are those same feelings that every person who walks among the hurting, searching and lost of humanity feels. It is the inability of a single person to meet all the needs. It is the silent cry, which held in defines the professional level of the work being done, while it tears at the very fabric of who we are, both socially and personally. There is little human salve for the open wounds, too few venues for the outlet needed for those things which bring fragility to the person finding themselves reeling amidst the endless expectations and battles daily faced... unless there is a person to which you can turn. So there is the hope. The knowledge that there is someone who not only hears, but understands. I am fortunate that I have not only a human helpmate that cares, hears and prays for me, but a Wonderful God who knows my sorrows and even though he knows I walk alone in some respects, I know I am never alone... He is always there, sometimes carrying me.

So why do those feelings come into my life of from time to time? Is it the long hours, the very challenging work I have undertaken, the size of debt that certainly brings its challenges or is it my lack of surrender. Well, as I view my life and my sense of work ethic, I know that I can take on too much, put too much of my personal effort into the concerns that should not be under my purview, but that comes with the job. I know that I take too seriously the idea that I am sent of God and I must work as if there is no tomorrow. I feel the pain of those under my care and I carry it and I should let God carry it for them.. He already has. But I can not leave behind the responsibility to help those I can. I have to learn once again not to carry it home with me and deal with the calls as they come, the disappointments as they arise, the complaints and misunderstanding as I face them, and not take it personally. That is the key... not taking it personally, because when I do I go out of control.

So back to the basics I go. Back to the time away from the fray, back to the time when I took rest and captured the reality of what was happening around me. It is time to give my life back to Him who gave me life in the beginning and then a new life in service for Him. I have seen the edge more than once in my life, I have been challenged on many sides and these days are challenging to say the least. But, I am not lost.. Near the edge of my control level yes, but I have the sense of self identity that I am nothing, but for God. I can challenge the abyss and not lose hope or focus. That is what living near the edge is all about. Staring into that which may seem beyond all skill and ability, can be healing when we surrender, not to fate, but to true strength that comes in our weakness when we ask Him for it. After all, I have been there and come back, I have tasted and it was good, I have seen the face of the abyss and now I have no fear.

I pray for those who stare out into the loss of control in their lives. It is not a pleasant place and can be brought on by so many triggers in life. Near the edge is not over the edge. We have an opportunity to focus on what brings peace not turmoil. Loss of control is a terrible place to be and peace is the beauty of the quiet we feel when we let go of those things in life that love to trigger a response and give them to God. Don’t regret the walk, living near the edge can be healing depending on how you define the view from there.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Characteristically Uncharacteristic

Not long ago I was asked a question to which I gave an unacceptable answer.... at least in terms of the acceptance by the person asking the question. It was a simple enough question, I would think, for the person who had either “an answer” or more importantly “the answer.” But I am finding the complexity of life to be a little too much for me sometimes of late, so I am more likely to say; “I don’t know!” I used to be filled with answers. I was the “Answer King”. I had an opinion on everything. Give me a subject and I was off to the debate. I was young! What I didn’t know could be placed in a few small volumes, the rest I was sure I knew... or at least thought I did anyway!

What changed suddenly? Was it the constant challenges in the workplace from my peers, the growing knowledge that there are those out there who might know more answers than I did, or the view of technology and information changing at a pace far greater than my absorption rate these days? The answer for some may be a challenge, but not for me. I became tired of always trying to keep up. So, I stepped back, began to look at my life and evaluate the process of staying abreast of all there is and my relationship to it. After all, I had chased life for 50 years and the learning curve has taken its toll. My bones they grow weary and the elasticity of youth has begun to stiffen and become brittle. Get this... I look at the sunrise more than I used to and I see the handiwork of God etched in the vistas along the highway. I see things that I can not change and I imagine the finger of God reshaping all this into the beauty of His Glory in a new Heaven and New earth.

There are going to be those who will read “this” blog and equate that the ol’ fella is losing it... He is looking at retirement and reflection has made way for anxiety and depression about growing old. Well, I have news for all you who are about to drop to your knees, run for your prayer closets or lift me to the Lord, as you hesitate in your reading... God is not finished with this old cat just yet.... that is not what this is about. I am seeing new things every day and well being characteristically uncharacteristic is the way I usually go about things of late.

Most people who think they know me, have had trouble figuring me out through the years. It may come from the background of my youth. It may come from the diversity of my experience, which as a great blessing has led me down many exciting and uplifting paths and across many physical and geographic boundaries. You see what one person experiences in life may be vastly different from another. We too often limit our definitions of what is going on because we have seen life differently and this can bring limitations to those definitions, which can bring the context and relevance of some choices or decisions under scrutiny or suspicion by some. I am, as I grow older, not as worried about the suspicions of others, though I would rather be accepted by everyone immediately for sure... Hey, I am human. I kind lady said to me not long ago about meeting me and how the first inclination she and her husband had, was to just accept me as another nice man who preaches, but have since had opportunity to really get to know me. One could assume that depth of human connectivity and interest might make the difference, but not always. There are limitations drawn in our life definitions as well, and they may take more than passing acquaintance to bridge and build into something meaningful and important.

So how do you feel today? Where are you efforts heading? Has life borne the image that you once dreamed possible in your childhood, youth, young adulthood toward maturity? I suspect that many or most of us have, in our maturation, grown beyond our youthful expectations and felt the influences upon our lives both positive and negative. What those influences have been and how we have dealt, and continue to deal with them, will have directed our definitions, emotions and thus our interests and focus in life. As we deal in the stresses of keeping up, meeting the expectations of others and then finding our way each day, there are those characteristics which God forms and shapes which will I pray, make us more like Him.

I want to fade each day, that Christ might shine brighter through my life. But this complication arises from that exercise. The human heart looks to the image of the earthly to understand the heavenly. I find myself under more scrutiny, a heavier load of expectation with physical responsible for more lives, emotions and wounds... just because I am open to His will, under His grace and am trying to be His voice, hands and feet in today’s world. So, the cycle of seed, water and fruit co-exist in my life. I plant seeds, I water and I bear the Fruit of the Spirit in hopes that something I say or do may draw someone to Christ or cause them to look deeper at their faith and long for a closer walk with Him. That often causes people therefore to put more focus on me before they begin to focus on God in Christ Jesus. So my life has become a constant round of characteristically uncharacteristic events that seem so unlike who and what I used to be as I search for a better me under the will and direction of His Holy Spirit. How and how well I preform under daily stress depends fully on my relationship with God each day.

Are you struggling to find your way today? Well, welcome to life near the edge. You see, we are all struggling at one level or another. If you are struggling at many levels on many sides, then it is time to become characteristically uncharacteristic and make some changes in your life. Ask the Lord for direction, strength and courage to make changes whether drastic or subtle, that will reshape and remould you into His child, for His Kingdom’s glory. It may take time and courage... but the exercise alone is uplifting and healing... that constant reading of His Word and continual chats with Him who created and now sustains, can be so peaceful when taken in its stride. It will make all the difference in the world in your focus. But I warn you, when Jesus said, “If you want to follow me, it means taking up your cross daily”, and your heart seems to fail at the prospect of feeling worse, Jesus also said, “... my yoke is easy and my burden is light”. Getting through life will have its complications, its disappointments and it scary moments, but God is there with us. I take solace in that and find courage for every step I take, once I take my eyes off the road and put them back on Him. Like I always say, “Living near the edge is not bad, it has moments of testing, moments of required courage and moments of extreme joy... It's all in how we define the view from there.”